Nick Evans was informed he had made the Mets’ Opening Day roster last season, even if it was only supposed to last for four games, until fifth starter Livan Hernandez officially was activated.
Instead, Gary Sheffield was acquired on the eve of the season. And Evans found himself with Triple-A Buffalo … and in a freefall.
Evans hit .093 with the Bisons during the season’s first six weeks, and was dispatched to Port St. Lucie, Fla., after a May 10 game to clear his head from the dismal start.
This year, albeit assigned to Double-A Binghamton, Evans has opened the season on a tear. He’s hitting .354 with four homers, 13 RBIs and six walks in 54 plate appearances and is the reigning Eastern League Player of the Week. Evans’ latest blast came Tuesday night against Portland while serving as DH, after missing two games with a stomach ailment. His .688 slugging percentage ranks first in the Eastern League.
“I’m just working on being consistent, working on my defense and just trying to have a good year,” said Evans, a fifth-round pick out of St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix in 2004. “Last year was tough, so I’m just trying to come into this year and rebound from that and put together a good one.”
Before Ike Davis had a two-hit game Monday, Evans was the last Met to have a multi-hit game in his major league debut. Evans had three doubles in Colorado on May 24, 2008. Evans and Davis both were raised in Phoenix, and are less than 14 months apart in age.
“The whole thing was kind of a blur for me,” Evans recalled about his debut. “I could imagine what’s going on for him. It’s nice to get out there and get those first couple of hits and RBI out of the way.
“We played together a little bit in high school -- more so toward the later years of high school. I’ve known Ike for a long time. I’m pretty excited for him.”
Evans, a natural first baseman, hit a combined .247 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 174 at-bats for the Mets while primarily playing left field the past two seasons. In Binghamton, he’s been able to return exclusively to playing first base.
“They told me the reason I was going to go to Double-A was so I could play more first base, which is fine with me,” Evans said. “Like I said, I just want to play every day.”
Evans insisted he’s not discouraged being in the Eastern League after playing at higher levels, including parts of two seasons in the majors.
“At first, when they told me, it’s a little hard to swallow,” Evans said. “But it’s just baseball. And I’m just excited to get a chance to play every day, and to try to get better and get back to where I want to be. I’m not too concerned about the level -- just getting to play baseball every day.”
The reality is this could be Evans’ final year in the minors. He’s out of minor league options. As a result, if he doesn’t make the Mets’ 2011 roster, he would have to be put on waivers, allowing another team to claim him.
“I think this year is a big year for me,” Evans said. “All I can do is try to have a good year and try to put myself in that position. I can’t worry about next year. I’m excited about this year.
“We have a great team here. It’s really exciting. We have a lot of good players. Obviously, I’m happy to get off to the good start. I feel like this is a big year for me and I was ready to go.”
Average: Kai Gronauer, Savannah, .394; Wilmer Flores, Savannah, .380; Ike Davis, Buffalo, .364; Josh Satin, St. Lucie, 361; Mike Hessman, Buffalo, .359; Nick Evans, Binghamton, .354; Brahiam Maldonado, Binghamton, .341, Zach Lutz, Binghamton, .333, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Binghamton, .333; Marshall Hubbard, Binghamton, .326.
Homers: Nick Evans, Binghamton, 4; Mike Hessman, Buffalo, 4; Zach Lutz, Binghamton, 4; Lucas Duda, Binghamton, 3.
RBIs: Lucas Duda, Binghamton, 16; Nick Evans, Binghamton, 13; Mike Hessman, Buffalo, 13; Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Binghamton, 10.
Steals: Jason Pridie, Buffalo, 4; Cesar Puello, Savannah, 4; Pedro Zapata, Savannah, 4; Rafael Fernandez, Savannah, 3; Juan Lagares, Savannah, 3.
ERA: Manuel Alvarez, St. Lucie, 0.00; Dillon Gee, Buffalo, 0.00; Jimmy Fuller, Savannah, 0.87; Jose Bierd, St. Lucie, 0.93; Mark Cohoon, Savannah, 1.53; Pat Misch, Buffalo, 2.76; Eric Niesen, Binghamton, 2.84; R.A. Dickey, Buffalo, 3.32; Dylan Owen, Binghamton, 3.38; Kyle Allen, St. Lucie, 3.60.
Wins: Mark Cohoon, Savannah, 3; Elmer Dessens, Buffalo, 3; Jimmy Fuller, Savannah, 2; Dillon Gee, Buffalo, 2; Scott Shaw, Binghamton, 2.
Saves: Manuel Alvarez, St. Lucie, 4; Elmer Dessens, Buffalo, 2; John Lujan, Binghamton, 2, Brandon Moore, Savannah, 2.
Strikeouts: Jimmy Fuller, Savannah, 18; Jeurys Familia, St. Lucie, 17; Armando Rodriguez, Savannah, 16; Mark Cohoon, Savannah, 14; Derrick Ellison, Binghamton, 13.
Buffalo right-hander Dillon Gee continues his domination after an injury-shortened 2009 season in which he dealt with a partially torn labrum in his pitching shoulder. Gee, a 21st-round pick three years ago from Texas-Arlington, has opened the Triple-A season with consecutive scoreless efforts against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In 13 innings, Gee limited the Yankees’ top affiliate to five hits while walking one, hitting a batter and striking out 12. There may be better things to come, too. Gee still doesn’t feel his strength fully returned from the shoulder issue, although it improves every appearance. … After a 1-for-24 start, catcher Josh Thole now is on a three-game hitting streak that has lifted his average to .143. Thole finished second in the Venezuelan Winter League in batting average. … With Davis in the majors and a resolution about whether Mike Jacobs will go to Buffalo still pending, Chris Carter manned first base Tuesday for the first time this season. Carter has significant experience at the position, including 11 games there last season with Triple-A Pawtucket, even if he’s not accomplished defensively at first base or in the outfield. … Fernando Martinez hit his first 2010 homer and upped his RBI total from one to four with a 2-for-4 showing Tuesday against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. … Bobby Parnell has seven walks in 5 2/3 innings. His scoreless innings streak to open the season abruptly ended Monday when he was charged with four runs on a hit and three walks without recording an out. … Reliever Jose De La Torre was promoted to Buffalo, but returned to Double-A Binghamton without making an appearance with the Bisons. … Ex-Diamondback Andy Green appears to be nearing a return to Buffalo. The infielder, slowed out of spring training by leg woes, played the past two days for St. Lucie. … B-Mets pitchers have walked 61 in 116 innings. The biggest culprits: 10 by Eric Niesen in 12 2/3 innings and nine by Eddie Kunz in 8 1/3 innings. Kunz, a reliever working as a starting pitcher, has a 9.72 ERA in two starts. … Third baseman Zach Lutz homered in three straight games against New Hampshire. Lutz’s .483 on-base percentage ranks second to Richmond’s Jackson Williams (.526) in the Eastern League. … Top-10 prospect Brad Holt has yet to pitch for Binghamton this season because of a wrist injury. Holt has been throwing on the side. … Jose Coronado has settled into second base with the B-Mets, with Luis Hernandez at shortstop. Infielder Hector Pellot, affected by the string of events that started with Ruben Tejada’s demotion to Buffalo, rejoined Binghamton on Monday because right fielder Carlos Guzman landed on the DL and crutches with a right knee strain. Guzman suffered the injury pursuing a shallow pop fly Sunday at New Hampshire. … St. Lucie shortstop Jordany Valdespin opened the season with a nine-game hitting streak. He owns a .300 average with two homers and seven RBIs in 50 at-bats, but has only two walks -- one apiece in each of the past two games. … Left-hander Jimmy Fuller, a 21st-round pick in 2008 out of Southern Connecticut State, is demonstrating he’s too advanced for the South Atlantic League after spending the previous two seasons in Brooklyn. The 22-year-old Fuller is 2-1 with a 0.87 ERA in three starts for Savannah, which has the league’s best staff ERA. Fuller most recently limited Rome to one run on six hits and a walk in 6 2/3 innings Monday. His fastball sits at 88-90 mph and he can throw his breaking ball for a strike. That allows him to dominate the low-A hitters, as right-handers Christopher Schwinden and Jeffrey Kaplan did last year. … Sand Gnats right-hander Armando Rodriguez had a strong start against Rome the day before Fuller. He struck out seven and walked none while allowing two runs and five hits in six innings, but was charged with the loss. GM Omar Minaya has compared Rodriguez’s ceiling to Jenrry Mejia’s upside, although that may be overstated -- at least with respect to the 22-year-old Rodriguez’s fastball, which recently sat at 90-91 mph, and touched 93 mph. … Left fielder Juan Lagares has been flashing power in his fourth straight season with Savannah. Lagares, who is still only 21 years old, had five extra-base hits in his first 49 at-bats while producing a .286 average and eight RBIs. Still, Lagares had struck out 10 times and had not drawn a walk in that span. He recently worked with roving minor league outfield instructor Mookie Wilson. The Gnats’ outfield defense -- with Pedro Zapata in center field and Cesar Puello in right field in addition to Lagares -- is a large reason for Savannah’s overall solid pitching numbers. … Sand Gnats third baseman Jefry Marte, 18, remains on the DL, where he’s been all season.
Adam Rubin’s farm report appears Wednesdays during the season